US tries to reconcile with France after Australia rebuff

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses the media after a panel discussion with local union leaders at IBEW Local 5 on Thursday, September 30, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo / Rebecca Droke, Pool)

PA

Secretary of State Antony Blinken to visit France next week as the Biden administration attempts to ease the hurt feelings and potentially longer lasting damage caused by its exclusion of the United States’ oldest ally from a new initiative of Indo-Pacific security, the State Department said on Friday.

The department said Blinken will travel to Paris from Monday for an international economic conference, but stressed that he will also meet with French officials to discuss the breakdown in relations.

The administration has been working to mend barriers with France and the European Union more broadly since the September 15 announcement of the Australia-US-UK deal, known as AUKUS , which canceled a multi-billion dollar Australia-France submarine contract.

All parties agree that it will take time to repair these links. The State Department said the Blinken talks will aim to “further strengthen the vital relationship between the United States and France on a range of issues, including security in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Ahead of his visit, Blinken met with French Ambassador Philippe Etienne on his return to Washington on Friday after being recalled to Paris by French President Emmanuel Macron. The recall was an unprecedented manifestation of anger to protest against the exclusion of France and the European Union from AUKUS, which aims to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.

The State Department said Blinken and Etienne “discussed the way forward in US-French bilateral relations” and announced the secretary’s upcoming trip to France for the Ministerial Council meeting of the Cooperation Organization and for economic development, based in Paris. The two also discussed ways to improve U.S. and French cooperation globally, he said.

But, U.S. officials remain concerned about the potential damage to the relationship.

“We recognize that it will take time and that it will take hard work,” said Karen Donfried, the newly confirmed US diplomat for Europe.

In Paris, the French Foreign Ministry said Blinken and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian would meet on Tuesday for a “in-depth exchange following their meeting in New York on September 23, in order to identify the steps that could allow them to restore confidence. between our two countries.

“The way out of the crisis will take time and will require action. This is also the conclusion at which our American interlocutors arrived “, he declared.

Other topics to be discussed will include “the climate crisis, economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the transatlantic relationship, and working with our allies and partners to address global challenges and opportunities,” the State Department said.

Friday’s announcement came a day after the White House announced that National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had met Etienne in an attempt to restore trust between the countries. French officials said AUKUS was a “stab in the back”.

These discussions followed a September 22 phone call between President Joe Biden and Macron and the meeting in New York between Blinken and Le Drian on the sidelines of the United Nations Annual General Assembly. Biden and Macron are expected to meet in Europe later this month.

The apparent reason for Blinken’s trip to France, which had been planned long before the AUKUS uproar, is to co-chair a Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development ministerial meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday on climate change and Security.

Former Secretary of State and current US Climate Envoy John Kerry will also take part in the Paris talks, which will take place just weeks before the next UN-backed international climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland. .


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